Surge in mental patient attacks at Sunderland hospital

Label view of the sign at the entrance to Cherry Knowle Hospital at Ryhope.
Label view of the sign at the entrance to Cherry Knowle Hospital at Ryhope.
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A MENTAL health patient is attacked every week in Sunderland’s Cherry Knowle Hospital.

Figures obtained by the Echo reveal there were 105 patient-on-patient attacks at the hospital in the 16 months between January 2012 and April this year.

The number of recorded assaults has risen dramatically from 41 in 2011.

Hospital bosses today partly blamed the rise on an increase in beds on the psychiatric intensive care ward but admitted that could not explain the full scale of the problem.

Four patients have died at the hospital in the past three years.

A spokeswoman for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Over the period in question, the increase in incidents occurred on three wards.

“The psychiatric intensive care ward had an increase in the number of beds, from eight to 14, as part of wider organisational changes.

“The other two wards had significant changes in function.

“These factors, together with the longer reporting period, explain some but not all of the increase in incidents.”

The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also reveal that 12 members of staff from the hospital have been suspended during the past three years.

It is understood these follow a number of allegations made by patients against employees on the wards.

Gary O’Hare, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust’s director of nursing and operations, said: “We take all patient safety concerns seriously and where a serious allegation is made, it may be necessary to suspend a member of staff without prejudice in order to safeguard patients.

“This may, however, be for only a short period of time until any incident can be investigated fully and facts are established.”

Three hospital workers have been dismissed from their roles at the hospital during the last three years.

Work is now well underway on a new £52million hospital next to the Cherry Knowle site.

The former Ryhope General Hospital has been knocked down to make way for a 122-bed mental health facility to replace Cherry Knowle.

When completely finished, it will provide patients suffering from severe mental health illnesses with single en suite rooms as well as hi-tech facilities and top-class medical care.

It is hoped the facility will be opened by next summer.